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Joint project: development of innovative methods for measuring and predicting the vitality of bees

Conventional methods for vitality measurement of honeybee colonies are almost always based on counts or estimates of the quantities of bees and brood ('colony strength'). It is not possible to measure sublethal effects with these techniques. This however would be urgently needed in order to completely describe the effects of individual stress factors such as pesticides and pathogens, and to quantify interactions. In the present project, we aim to increase the speed, precision and objectivity of the measurement of the conventional vitality indicators by means of computerized image analysis. Additionally, physiological and biochemical indicators will be developed that also reflect sublethal damages. These measure the performance of the individuals present in terms of brood rearing, the collection of food and reproduction. For the computer-based measurement of colony strength, an apparatus is developed to capture all comb surfaces. The next step is the adaptation of algorithms that determine the amounts of open and capped brood, of bees and of food stores from the images. These are tested by comparison with metrical data obtained by weighing and counting. The additional physiological/biochemical indicators include the capacities of important metabolic pathways, of brood food composition and learning performance of bees. They are validated in experiments in which colonies are stressed by exposition to insecticides, by Varroa infestation, or both. A field study is also planned.

Joint project: development of innovative methods for measuring and predicting the vitality of bees

Conventional methods for vitality measurement of honeybee colonies are almost always based on counts or estimates of the quantities of bees and brood ('colony strength'). It is not possible to measure sublethal effects with these techniques. This however would be urgently needed in order to completely describe the effects of individual stress factors such as pesticides and pathogens, and to quantify interactions. In the present project, we aim to increase the speed, precision and objectivity of the measurement of the conventional vitality indicators by means of computerized image analysis. Additionally, physiological and biochemical indicators will be developed that also reflect sublethal damages. These measure the performance of the individuals present in terms of brood rearing, the collection of food and reproduction. For the computer-based measurement of colony strength, an apparatus is developed to capture all comb surfaces. The next step is the adaptation of algorithms that determine the amounts of open and capped brood, of bees and of food stores from the images. These are tested by comparison with metrical data obtained by weighing and counting. The additional physiological/biochemical indicators include the capacities of important metabolic pathways, of brood food composition and learning performance of bees. They are validated in experiments in which colonies are stressed by exposition to insecticides, by Varroa infestation, or both. A field study is also planned.

Total budget:

Coordinating Institution:

Länderinstitut für Bienenkunde Hohen Neuendorf e.V. (LIB) Details of LIB

Work package leader:

Subprojects

Joint project: development of innovative methods for measuring and predicting the vitality of bees